Anger over proposed large scale developments in Birchington and at Westgate and Garlinge has prompted a furious letter to government from North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale and a forceful objection lodged by Birchington Parish Council.
Sir Roger has written an objection against the development plans for 1,650 homes in Birchington and 2000 homes on land at Westgate and Garlinge.
In it he says: “The plans, collectively and severally, do not provide for adequate supporting infrastructure. The road network is quite simply unfit for purpose in respect of the servicing of these two proposed estates and I see no evidence that any thought through plan, properly funded, is available to underpin the developments.
“Equally I see no indication that funding for further primary and secondary education either within the Birchington development or the Garlinge development is available and as has been pointed out by many of my constituents there is a lamentable lack of secondary educational facility in the area.”
He says the builds will result in making “Birchington on Sea and Westgate on Sea one sprawling conurbation.”
The MP has also written to Secretary of State Robert Jenrick about the proposed developments saying Thanet will be used “as a dumping ground for the housing problems of inner London.”
He wrote: “Not only are these applications in gross breach of the statements made by yourself and the Prime Minister in respect of future development -not to put to finer point on it that make a mockery of the pledges -but it was your Department, under your predecessor (Sajid Javid) who imposed this Local Plan upon Thanet. It is therefore absolutely the case that you have to take responsibility for these issues. I believe very strongly indeed that these applications should be called in, considered by an Inspector and adjudicated by you as Secretary of State. We shall then know precisely where the buck stops.”
The MP says he is acutely aware of the housing need in Thanet but adds: “I am also aware of the lack of employment in the area and the lack of supporting infrastructure for these proposed developments -none of which is backed up by funding from either developers, the County Council or Central Government.
“It is my belief that there is more than adequate brownfield land available in Thanet to meet the immediate (probably 9,000 homes) housing need and that anything else must be regarded as simply an endeavour to use the Isle of Thanet as a dumping ground for the housing problems of inner London. That would be a recipe for still further social disaster.”
However, Thanet council head of housing Bob Porter (above) told The Isle of Thanet News in June 2017 that fears of London sink estates being created in Thanet are unlikely to come true.
He acknowledged that London boroughs are placing residents on the isle, but said this was not happening in huge numbers.
The development plans for Birchington are for 1,650 homes, a primary school, shops, a 70 bed care home and a community park. The plans also include potential improvements to the Birchington Medical Centre, a network of new cycle and pedestrian links within the site and surrounding area and a strategic link road to help alleviate traffic in the village centre and wider Thanet area. An outline planning application for the site has been lodged by Ptarmigan Land and Millwood Homes.
Millwood has also lodged an application for 2000 homes, including up to 100 Extra Care units, a care home, two form entry primary school, health centre and shops, cafes and restaurants on 237 acres, including agricultural land, on three parcels of land west of Minster Road; between Minster Road and Garlinge High Street and extending east of Garlinge High Street.
Aims to develop the sites are contained in the Thanet Local Plan a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle up until 2031. A vote aimed at retaining aviation at Manston airport – an airport supported by Sir Roger – in 2018 resulted in a reallocation of properties, including a further 600 homes for Birchington, making a total of 1,600.
Birchington Parish Council has lodged major objections to the development on prime agricultural land to the south west of the village.
At a specially convened virtual parish council meeting the council voted unanimously to throw out the proposal saying it does not comply with district planning policies and contains insufficient evidence and detail to provide assurance on key matters including safety, traffic congestion and the environment.
The meeting had a large public attendance and included members of the neighbouring Westgate Town Council and Monkton Parish Council. Residents in attendance were allowed 3 minutes to speak publicly about the proposals. Several took the opportunity to express deep concerns on behalf of the community and spoke passionately about anxieties over light pollution, rainwater management and flooding, loss of privacy from overbearing buildings and the lack of employment opportunities created by the development.
No one spoke in favour.
Birchington Parish Council has produced a 26-page response document with analysis and advice from AECOM, a large, multinational, specialist. A short presentation to the council from AECOM said there was a weakness in the reasoning behind the proposed road junctions, the location of the proposed school, shop and community hub and the routing of the major relief roads. They say particular concern is the absence of proposals to provide support and investment into the existing Birchington community.
Parish Council Chairman, Neville Hudson said “These proposals come about as a direct result of the Thanet Local Plan which was adopted by TDC councillors in July 2020. Prior to that date and since then we understand that there have been in depth discussions between TDC, KCC and the developer about these plans but sadly none of them saw fit to involve the parish council. As a result, the proposals are flawed in many ways and totally unacceptable in this form.”
The parish council says there is a failure by Thanet and Kent councils to show how a new ‘inner circuit’ bypass would be funded or built.
So far, almost 200 objections have been lodged against the development.
Cllr Hudson said: “We are aware of the deep feelings in the village and appreciate the efforts of all those who have taken the trouble to express their views to TDC, KCC and elected representatives. Although the consultation process closes this weekend residents should still feel free to express their views to TDC and KCC councillors, Sir Roger Gale MP and the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick.”
Earlier this month Millwood and Ptarmigan urged residents to view the planning paperwork, with clear explanations and a non technical outline, on their website. Ptarmigan said there is a dedicated phone number and email that can be used for any queries or requests.
Olly Buck, from Ptarmigan Land, said:“Since October 2019 through to the middle of 2020 we engaged thoroughly with Birchington residents and a multitude of other local stakeholders in order to hear their views.
“We appreciate how complicated the planning process is , especially for large applications, and that is why we have gone the extra mile to ensure our engagement was as inclusive, transparent and productive as possible. We were delighted with the level of participation in all our events over the last two years and the feedback really helped shape our final proposals.”
Ptarmigan has been asked for comment on the objections from Sir Roger and Birchington Parish Council.
The Birchington Parish Council response to consultation is available in full on the council website: https://birchington-pc.gov.uk/
A Westgate Action Group has been set up to protest about development on agricultural land.